Is there a better way to spend a frosty Sunday morning than breathing the rarified air of both Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio? Nay, we say! Moviefone hustled to a swank hotel in Manhattan for "The Wolf of Wall Street" press conference, with Scorsese, DiCaprio, Kyle Chandler, writer Terence Winter, and producers Riza Aziz, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, and Joey McFarland in attendance to discuss their crazy tale of real life greed and debauchery. Here's what we learned.
1. It Was All Leo's idea, But It Wasn't Easy
Surprise! Not everything comes easily to Leonardo DiCaprio -- even a juicy project like this.
"About six years ago, I picked up this novel by Jordan Belfort, which was a fascinating read simply because I felt like it was really a reflection of -- his biography was a reflection of everything that's wrong in today's society. This hedonistic lifestyle, this time period in Wall Street's history where Jordan basically gave into every carnal indulgence possible, and was obsessed with greed and you know, obsessed with himself, essentially," he said.
"[Belfort] was so unflinching in his account of this time period and so honest and so unapologetic in this biography, I was compelled to play this character for a long period of time. We almost got the financing during 'Shutter Island' and the film fell apart, but I was obsessed with having Marty direct this film. Terry wrote an incredible screenplay that I think was really catered to Marty's strengths and his style, so it was a long waiting period to get this film financed and, finally, our friends here at Red Granite said, look, we want to take a chance on this film. We want it to be a grand American epic of greed and pull no punches, push the envelope, and go the distance with it. So I re-approached it and brought it back to Marty and said, look, we really don't get opportunities like this very often. These things really don't come out of the studio system. And thankfully he agreed to do the film, again, and here we are."
2. Scorsese Isn't Retiring
Put those rumors to rest, y'all, because Marty isn't going anywhere. "You'll have to stop me yourself. You'll have to just tackle me to stop me," he joked. We wouldn't dare!
3. How in the World Did "The Wolf of Wall Street" Avoid an NC-17 Rating?
Scorsese has been around the block with the MPAA once or twice in the past few decades, starting with "Mean Streets," "where I had to cut a few lines of dialogue that are now used on regular newscasts and [are] every other word in British newspapers," he quipped. Although the shenanigans that Belfort and his cronies got up to will shock audiences, what was snipped from the final cut wasn't that big of a deal to the director. He described the cuts as "nothing that I would feel in any way I missed." The real pressure was that he was editing the movie at the same time.
4. Nose Candy Isn't That Dandy
Sorry to disappoint, but all the powder they're hoovering onscreen was simply crushed-up baby vitamins. They're good, and good for you! Well, except for the fact that all that vitamin B burned. "We did a lot of it," said Leo.
5. Rob Reiner Is No Meathead
Never mind what Archie Bunker used to say. The director of films like "When Harry Met Sally...," "The Princess Bride," and "Stand By Me" jumped at the chance to work with "one of the greatest filmmakers of all time." As an added bonus, Reiner was cast as Max Belfort, Jordan's dad. "First of all, I thought, well, he wants me to play Leonardo DiCaprio's father. So I thought, well, maybe I'm a lot more handsome than I figured! I took it to mean that," Reiner joked.
6. Leo Might Be the Next Jerry Lewis... or Jacques Tati!
That's right, Scorsese compared DiCaprio's high jinks during one Quaalude-heavy scene to France's favorite crying clown slash misogynist, as well as the creator of the beloved Monsieur Hulot. DiCaprio revealed that he took his cues from interviewing Belfort about the effects of Quaaludes. "I had him rolling around on the floor for me and he was very helpful with that," said the star. The real inspiration for the Quaalude scene is slightly more surprising, and that's the YouTube video called "The Drunkest Man in the World." As he described it, "It's a man trying to get a beer but his body doesn't quite [make it]. He's rolling around on the floor for hours, so that was a huge inspiration for me."
"I was stunned at how physically great you are," Reiner exclaimed, "Like a great physical comedian!" Can someone please pass our compliments on to the drunkest man in the world?
7. The Truth Is Even Stranger Than This Movie.
As part of his research, Terence Winters talked to Belfort, his ex-wife, his parents, and the FBI agent who arrested Belfort, who "reassured me that every single thing in that book was true, which is even more incredible to me." He added, "I actually had Jordan come in to CAA and give one of those incredible speeches to a roomful of assistants to see him actually do it, which was pretty incredible."
DiCaprio has been talking with Belfort for years, and says the writer was quite forthcoming. "He would divulge the most embarrassing things about his life because he looked at it as a part of his life. Even times where we'd start to have conversations where he'd start to veer off into, well, maybe we shouldn't betray... I'd say, look, you wrote this book about this time period in your life and you did it for a reason, and you did it to talk about what happened behind the doors of Wall Street and the conversations that were going on in an unregulated marketplace. You're making a statement here, so let's tell the truth. And as soon we had that conversation, he's like, 'Okay, I'm an open book. I'm going to tell you not only what happened on that day but I'm going to tell you something that's ten times worse.'"
Of course, we may never find out what exactly that was.
8. There's No Honor Among... Bankers.
Is it easier to commit crimes when you're not face to face with the people you're ripping off? Scorsese mused, "There is a kind of mythology about the honor among thieves, to a certain [extent]... I guess it's more a primal level in the street. You promise something to somebody, you have a situation where it's a matter of respecting each other. It's different. It's face to face. It's a different thing. These people can do it with a -- nobody knows where the hand comes from. They can do it with a stroke of the pen, see? And so it's more insidious, I think."
As Winters pointed out, one of Belfort's colleagues who came out against him was none other than Bernie Madoff. "When Jordan was arrested in the late '90s, [Madoff] came out and railed against him, saying, this guy is the reason Wall Street has a black eye, people like Jordan Belfort should go to jail forever, etc.," Winters said. And we all know how that turned out.
9. It's Hard to Get a Movie Made That Isn't a Franchise -- Even If You're Martin Scorsese.
Even Scorsese is in the dark when it comes to the studio system these days.
"I don't really know who's calling the shots anymore," he said. "I don't know. All I know is that the cinema we know of, the cinema we took seriously when I was growing up and when I was making films earlier, it's all changed now. It's different, particularly with a marketplace like this."
Reiner added he found it equally confounding. "We, as filmmakers, we just want to make something, and so you find any way you can to do it, and I don't know where the money comes from. They're Russian oligarchs! I don't know who they are! But you just keep trying, and I admire you so much because you keep trying. It's so easy to fall back into, well, we'll do foreign pre-sales and you'll patch this together with this, but to start with something organic, with Terence's script and the book and Leo's vision and your vision, to start and do something in an organic way is rare now... if it's not a movie that doesn't have either 'Man' in the title or a number, you know, 'Iron Man 2,' 'Superman 3,' 'Batman 4,' 'Spider-Man 3,' a 'Man' and a number!"
Hmmm, it looks like they've got your number, Hollywood.
10. The World Needs More Rob Reiner
Reiner has been spending most of his time behind the camera, but darn it, we need more of him in front of the camera! When he wasn't enthusing about Scorsese and his co-stars, he was doling out gems that had everyone cracking up.
"I got to say the F word in a Martin Scorsese picture, so that's always a good thing!"
"The Wolf of Wall Street" opens Christmas Day.